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two roads diverged

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Todoroki’s morning was awful so far. As usual, he didn’t let it affect him too much. He maintained a neutral expression throughout the day, behaving in class as he always did; mostly silent. He learned from a young age not to pay attention to the other kids; they had nothing important to offer the next number one hero. The son of the famed number two hero, Endeavor.

No one was able to get a word out of him except teachers. He treated them with respect, as they were authority figures. He ignored class clowns, attention seekers, and bullies and they ignored him, too afraid of his Quirk and his position to mess with him, or even dare utter a word to him. A few kind girls tried reaching out to him here and there, but quickly realized they were wasting their own time in trying to get through to him. Why waste a lifetime breaking through a boy’s cold exterior and being painfully burnt time and time again only to reach a fiery interior that would finish the job and finally burn what little remained?

Todoroki understood. He kept to himself, remained the top of every class. Never was second best, never was third. Even in P.E., he was the fastest, the strongest, always showing constant improvement in how he handled and used his Quirk. He wasn’t permitted to use it indoors unlike the other kids, due to safety concerns. That, and the school didn’t have much of a budget to fix buildings that were frozen over or burnt to a crisp.

Naturally, most of the powerful boy’s training was done at home. Under intense supervision from his only parent; Endeavor. He was constantly broken down only to build himself back up, returning stronger every day. Every time his father beat him down, he got back up again and showed him just how much he’d changed since the last beating. And the cycle repeated. Beating after beating. Change after change. Until Todoroki had finally reached his limit. He overworked himself, and found himself blacked out in a hospital bed during his last week of school. 

The missing work would be a piece of cake to complete, and it wasn’t like he had any friends waiting around on him at school, anticipating his return, so Todoroki wasn't at all concerned about how the next week would pan out. Sure, everyone would notice he was gone, but few would care. Less competition. A smoother last week, a more fun celebration without his silent yet deafening presence lurking in the shadows, in the corner where he believed nobody would see him, yet his very existence was blinding to his peers.

It was there in that hospital bed that an angel appeared to him.

Touya.

The familiar smell flooded his nostrils. It smelled like home. Like his mother. Like Fuyumi, like Natsuo. But most importantly, like Touya. Touya Todoroki. His older brother. He hadn’t seen him in...seven...eight years now?

Todoroki couldn’t think very clearly at the moment. The medicine made him feel drowsy and weakened, and hearing his father yell at the doctors and nurses who were only doing their jobs made his ears hurt.

Finally, the doctors and nurses had left him alone. His father had headed home, as well, for a good night’s rest before another day of saving lives and rescuing people, and trying to surpass All Might, as any sane person would do.

Todoroki stiffened as the scent grew stronger. Footsteps. A man with mismatched patchwork skin and piercing, icy blue eyes entered the room, shutting the doors behind him and drawing the curtains. His eyes were glued to the bruises littering Todoroki’s skin, particularly one on his cheek.

As this strangely familiar figure drew closer, Todoroki felt his heart rate pick up speed. He desperately tried to move, but his limbs had frozen still. He tried to activate his flames, but they weren’t working. The medication must’ve been the cause, it must be suppressing his strength so that he wouldn’t accidentally light himself on fire in the middle of the night. He’d been having some intense nightmares as a result of these new medications.

“Shouto.” A voice, clear as day, quiet as the aforementioned boy, rang out. 

  Todoroki let out a choked whimper as the man now stood at his bedside, gazing tenderly into his eyes and leaning down now to clutch either side of his face with his hands. 

  “Touya…”

Affectionately holding the tired boy’s head in his hands, the patchwork man smiled softly. Not a villainous smirk, not a taunting grin, not an obligatory, polite raise of the corners of his mouth. A genuine smile. For him, and him only. The smile he'd missed so much, the smile he hadn't felt the joy of experiencing since he was a child.

“I’m here to save you. Listen carefully, Shou…” Touya leaned further down, still keeping his hands where they were, and whispered softly into his younger brother’s ear. He detailed all of his plans, why he’d disappeared, how sorry he was for leaving him for so long, how he’d found a group that was willing to help him exact his revenge against their abusive father. 

For once, Todoroki was all ears. He listened intently, and when a Code Orange was announced over the loudspeaker, Touya - no, Dabi, as they’d discussed - let go of his brother’s face and pulled back, much to Todoroki’s dismay. He let out a pained whine but Touya just gave that soft smile again, with less sadness and more determination this time. 

“That’s my cue, little brother. I’ll see you Wednesday, if all goes according to plan.” Dabi turned his back to the injured boy and Todoroki frowned, too lost in thought to realize his older brother was leaving until it was too late.

"Touya-"

Dabi slipped back on his disguise, a tightly-fitting white lab coat and blue mask covering the patchwork parts of his face, and flew out the door, careful to quietly shut it behind him before racing out to the nearest exit. He'd cast his brother one last sidelong glance full of sympathy and just the tiniest hint of wistfulness before shutting the door and leaving Todoroki's field of vision.

Todoroki thought he heard screams and smelled the smoke from a fire but both the sounds and scent had disappeared as quickly as they’d come, and he was left wondering if he’d just hallucinated the past twenty minutes. He was numb, deaf, blind to the nurses and doctors shrouding him, crowding him, smothering him in attention and trying to figure out what had happened in the half hour they'd left him alone. Todoroki grinned a genuine grin for the first time in a while. Man, was he looking forward to Wednesday.